Hillary's Politics of Fear

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

This has been the mantra of the Bush Administration since 9/11 and it has now apparently been co-opted by Hillary Clinton.

Senator Clinton promises she will protect us from "day one." Barack Obama and John Edwards not only can't keep America safe since they don't have the experience of being First Lady for a combined 16 years, but terrorists will be more likely to come after us if either of them were elected president. Why? We don't know. It seemingly has nothing to do with policies, facts, or reality, but what George Orwell described as the powerful tool of fear.

Forget Big Brother; we apparently have Big Sister to keep us safe and secure.

Will Democrats really fall for the same fear-mongering, Cheney-Rove rhetoric they have despised and criticized over the past seven years?

"I don't think it was by accident that Al Qaeda decided to test the new prime minister," she was quoted as saying before the New Hampshire primary. "They watch our elections as closely as we do, maybe more closely than some of our fellows citizens do.... Let's not forget you're hiring a president not just to do what a candidate says during the election, you want a president to be there when the chips are down."

Senator Clinton's fear strategy was repeated and re-asserted in the Las Vegas, Nevada MSNBC Debate on Tuesday night. When asked if her previous statement that Al-Qaeda would be more likely to test a new president (apparently she doesn't qualify as "new") was meant to induce fear, she re-asserted:

"What I said is what you quoted, and I'm not going to characterize it, but it is the fact, you know, the fact is that we face a very dangerous adversary and to forget that, to brush it aside, I think is a mistake. So I do feel that the next president has to be prepared because we are up against a relentless enemy and they will take advantage of us. They will certainly, as they have over the last several years, continue their attacks against our friends and allies around the world. . .And at the end of the day voters have to make that decision among all of us. . . because it is a critical question."

Again, no explanation of why she is bringing this up on the campaign trail other than to a) perpetuate fear, and b) assert that she is the candidate uniquely able to protect American citizens.

Barack Obama's response provided a stark contrast:

"I think there is no doubt that we have been dominated by a politics of fear since 9/11. Now, some of that is understandable. We have real enemies out there. The tragedy in New York was a trauma to the country that is going take a long time for us to work out. And Senator Clinton did good work in terms of helping the city to recover. But I have to say that when Senator Clinton uses the specter of a terrorist attack with a new Prime Minister during a campaign, I think that is part and parcel of what we've seen with the use of the fear of terrorism in scoring political points. And I think that's a mistake.

"Now, I don't want to perpetuate that. I think that's part of why we ended up going into Iraq and made a big strategic error that has made us less safe. Resources that could have been spent on homeland security have been spent in Baghdad. Resources that could have been spent hunting down Bin Laden have been diverted to Iraq. That's what happens when your judgment is clouded."

Political experts are correct to point out that the differences in policy among the three leading Democratic candidates are not great, particularly with domestic issues. But the differences in leadership could not be more striking.

Barack Obama inspires us with his vision of hope and transformation, John Edwards pleads for a bridging of the gulf between the rich and the poor, and Hillary Clinton tells us to be afraid.

Her campaign speaks of "false hopes," of "rolling the dice," of race, of drugs, of "fairy tales," of inevitable attacks, of rhetoric that can't be realized, of people that can't be mobilized, of a country that will be forever divided.

After eight years of Bush/Cheney is this the kind of leadership we want? Will we allow fear, once again, to determine an election?